2 photographers and an English Lit teacher

When Sam chose to buy Joseph Meehan’s The Magic of Digital Close-up Photography over the other digital photography books on the bookstore shelves, neither of us knew who Joseph Meehan was. Sam chose the books because of its subject matter — close-up photography — which is her passion.

I read the first half of the book in one sitting — Meehan has a very engaging style of writing — and the first important lesson I learned is, I think, the most fundamental of all.

The secret of close-up photography is in the ability to see the world through the details of objects. Many of us, myself included, have spent more than half my life looking at the “complete picture” from a “holistic perspective”. I must say that the philosophy of close-up photography is akin to seeing the world from a whole new perspective. And I find that challenging.

It brought to mind a discussion I had with my English Literature teacher in college. She gave an essay test and when our papers were returned, everyone a grade except me. In front of the whole class, she praised how excellent my essay was. Why didn’t I have a grade then? She wanted a discussion first. It was a question of perspective. I insisted that “beauty” was a totality — something perceived from the whole rather than its parts.

Ms. Hilario — her name was Jodette Hilario — said there were many ways to appreciate beauty. A woman may not have a beautiful face even though she had beautiful eyes. You get the picture.

I suppose that is how people like Sydney Snoeck are able to see beauty in this poverty-torn country. The first time I viewed his blog, I asked myself, “How can this stranger see and capture the essence of a town fiesta, joy in the faces of men drinking beer and beauty in the smiles of skinny and unkempt waifs… and I can not?”

All of that, taken together, sort of creates a direction — a goal — with every photo we take.